Belief in a Just World, Transphobia, and the Blaming of Innocent Victims

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Dexter Thomas, Westminster College


When someone is the victim of a beating, rape, or murder, one might expect that most individuals would recognize the innocence of the victim. Surprisingly, research suggests many people assign blame to innocent victims (Dalbert, 2009; Lerner & Simmons, 1966). The “Just World” hypothesis proposes a possible explanation for this puzzling phenomenon. Belief in a Just World implies that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Previous research has found a relationship between belief in a just world, victim blaming, and other beliefs such as homophobia (Glennon & Joseph, 1993; Anderson, 1992). The present experiment extends upon this area of research. We examine transphobia, belief in a just world, and victim blaming. Three hundred and forty-two participants ages 18-72 were recruited from within the United States. Participants read a scenario in which an individual was the innocent victim of a beating. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions; in one condition, the victim was transgender, in the other condition, the victim was not. Participants then completed questionnaires measuring victim blame, transphobia, and belief in a just world. Results showed that transphobia positively correlated with belief in a just world. Additionally, a positive correlation was found between victim blaming and transphobia for all victims, transgender and non-transgender. However, when controlling for levels of transphobia, belief in a just world was no longer correlated with victim blaming. These results suggest that transphobia is related to belief in a just world and that transphobia, separate from belief in a just world, is related to increased victim blaming even for victims who are not transgender.